“Underground Lake Geneva” host Philip Sassano pets a pygmy hippopotamus at the Carson and Barnes Circus while circus worker Marcelino Lozano warns that the 27-year-old hippo might bite folks she’s not used to. Web show producer Phil Bonyata films the scene on the left. (Photo by Vicky Wedig)

By Vicky Wedig


Phil Bonyata and Philip Sassano showed up Sunday morning at the circus in Delavan unannounced, unscheduled and unscripted.

The “Underground Lake Geneva” producer and host flitted around the Lake Lawn Airport grounds as Carson and Barnes workers set up the circus – looking for things to film and joke about.

“Are there tiger cages we can get you in?” Bonyata asked Sassano as he stood on a metal staircase overlooking the elephants’ cage.

The result of the pair’s circus escapade will be an eight-minute YouTube video on ReelLifeTV.net aimed to promote events in and around Lake Geneva.

The circus is the web show’s farthest foray from Lake Geneva to date. It began filming in February, making its debut with Lake Geneva’s Winterfest and has produced five shows since then.

The pair – along with Lake Geneva Regional News photographer Joy Kowald – met at the airport grounds after 9 a.m. Sunday as about 100 workers from the Oklahoma-based circus set up the one-day show. They hadn’t arranged to meet with circus officials and had no plans about what to shoot.

Sassano, an interior designer, said the show aims to give residents and tourists a spontaneous look at area events and attractions from a perspective they haven’t seen before. He and Bonyata, a Regional News advertising representative, wandered around the grounds shooting “B roll” – general shots of everything – mulled over an introduction and searched out “what looks interesting,” Bonyata said.

They filmed an introduction with Sassano walking out from the “big tent” entrance.

“For more than 200 years, the mystery and the magic of the circus has been captivating American audiences,” Sassano said to the camera before fumbling some words and stomping back to his starting point.

“Maybe we’ll have a few different intros,” Bonyata said.

“This is a good intro,” Sassano retorted. “I’ve got it.”

He emerged from the circus entrance again, ending his spiel with, “Today, ‘Underground Lake Geneva’ joins the circus!”

The trio approached an area where eight-year circus worker Marcelino Lozano prepared the circus’ petting zoo.

“Get some llama footage,” Kowald said as an animal, which they later learn is actually an alpaca, jumped the fence of the petting zoo and wandered around. In a crouched stance, Sassano tried to sneak up on the animal, who jumped back into the cage at Lozano’s command.

“We need insider access,” Bonyata said as Sassano approached Lozano about getting a closer look at the animals.

Sassano asked for Lozano’s name and commented about what “cool names” the circus workers have. He decided to take Pedro as his circus name.

Lozano told Sassano the jumping alpaca is named Benny,

“Did they ever tell you not to look Benny in the eye?” Sassano asked.

Lozano laughed, and then showed Sassano the goats.

“Do people ever try to feed them stuff, like coffee?” Sassano asked.

An answer – if there was one – was interrupted when Sassano noticed Kowald standing near the rear of a camel, who needed to relieve itself.

“Joy, did you almost get peed on?!” Sassano said.

They moved on and met Jack the donkey, Zack the water buffalo and a 450-pound pygmy hippopotamus.

“Has she tried workout videos?” Sassano asked, peting the 27-year-old hippo before Lozano warned she might bite.

Lozano then introduced Sassano to a 7-year-old Zebra-donkey mix, Cupid, born on Valentine’s Day. Sassano joked that Cupid was the result of a one-night circus.

“It was a crazy circus night,” he said. “There was vodka … tequila.”




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